Let’s focus on fixing the sick part of our health care system
By Beth Cody, Writers’ Group member
Iowa City Press-Citizen
Wednesday, July 8, 2009

President Obama is aggressively pushing for a government-imposed health plan that will eventually lead to a single-payer, government-run system, in the hope for “universal coverage,” but the results of such a system will be universally disappointing.

Any government-run system is destined to be less respectful of human life and suffering than the flawed system we currently have.

The current flaws:
- Insurance policies are expensive because competition is restricted – individuals must buy policies in their own state.
- Each state has long lists of mandated coverages for things consumers often don’t want or need, which makes insurance so expensive that many must go without coverage entirely.
- tax policy encourages reliance on employer-provided insurance, leading employees to stay in bad job situations merely to keep their insurance.

However, the medical system itself is pretty good – most people are happy with the care they receive, it’s just the cost of insurance that’s the problem.

But any government attempt to pay for insurance will inevitably impair medical care itself.

This truth is why politicians are repeatedly insisting that nothing will change under their plan: no higher taxes; government won’t interfere in our medical decisions; if we like our current insurance, we can keep it – government-run insurance will just be an “option.”

Yeah, right. How long do you think your insurance plan will be around after government begins to “compete” using taxpayer subsidies?

Most employers will immediately dump their employees on the government plan, and few individuals will be able to afford any surviving private plans, no matter how much they distrust the government “option.”

An estimated two-thirds of privately-covered patients (118.5 million people) will switch to the government plan. The insurance market will collapse, and we’ll have pretty close to a single-payer system (except for the rich, of course).

And then the rationing will begin. Making access to health care easier and more widespread (the purported government goal) will lead to higher costs, because people use more “free” services.

So government will have no choice but to ration health care (achieving the opposite of their purported goal).

Bureaucrats will decide who is “too sick” or “too old” to treat, how much pain medicine patients will be allowed, and which treatments are too expensive or too “risky” to try.

But isn’t this what insurance companies do already? Yes, but those are voluntary contracts and companies can be sued, resulting in lower ratings and negative publicity (losing business). Government bureaucrats can’t be sued and don’t care if you are unhappy with your single “option.”

Government rationing will certainly be worse than insurance rationing, because inevitable public administrative bloat and program fraud will necessitate drastic cost-saving measures.

And cost-saving will also result in fewer doctors and fewer new treatments and life-saving ideas. Are we satisfied with the current state of medicine, or do we wish profit-driven innovation (done mostly in America – not in countries with government-run health care) to continue?

Just ask patients in government-plan countries how humane their systems are:
- waiting lists on which patients regularly become too sick to be treated
- doctor shortages
- far lower cancer survival rates
- increased discrimination against elderly, minority and rural patients.

These are not make-believe or overstated (read Cato Institute report “Health Care in a Free Society”). They are why other countries are now moving back toward the freedoms of patient-centered (market-determined) medicine.

Americans don’t need government running (and ruining) our health care, we just need cheaper insurance plans to choose from.

So let’s just fix that:

1. Allow people to purchase insurance from any state – this will lead to more competition and much lower rates.
2. Repeal corporate deductibility of premiums and replace it with individual tax credits. This will sever the unhealthy relationship between employment and insurance, empower individuals and lead to more individual plan competition and lower rates.
3. Allow insurers to charge less to policyholders who practice healthy habits – this is mostly illegal now, incredibly.
4. Reform medical malpractice laws, which will make health care itself less expensive.

In the end, we must ask ourselves: do we want health care modeled on the U.S. Postal Service, subsidized housing (HUD), Amtrak, the IRS, FEMA or other similarly-well-run government programs?

Or do we think we should fix only the sick part of our health care system, and leave the rest of the patient intact?